Why Does God Allow Suffering?

 

A Sorrowful Response to Aurora, Colorado

Early this morning, while most of us were sleeping, a man stormed into an Aurora Colorado movie theater heavily armed and shot 12 people to death. We, as a Christian community should pray for these families who have lost loved ones and pray for the churches that will seek to minister to them. We should also pray for the communities of Colorado in general who have had to deal with wild fires most of the summer and now they have to find a way to respond  when this unspeakable tragedy erupts at a place where many people go to relax and get their minds off of things that are painful.

We should also be quick to offer hope. “… always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Remember that the gospel offers hope in this kind of pain. While we cannot even attempt to offer explanations for every experience of pain and toil, we know that we live on a broken planet that Jesus came to redeem, and it is through Jesus that real, soul-anchoring hope is possible.

Though Christianity does not provide the reason for each experience of pain, it provides deep resources for actually facing suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair. -Tim Keller

Jesus Suffered For The Joy Set Before Him

We are, indeed, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV). Jesus suffered death on the cross as our faithful high priest and substitutionary sacrifice. Jesus suffered, being fully human and fully divine, separation between himself and his Father to the point that on the cross he exclaimed, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He suffered to bring about the salvation of his people. This was the joy set before him: the bringing of a kingdom for God. In his agony, he established a kingdom for God, glorifying his name and crushing Satan, his enemy, once and for all.

Jesus Was Resurrected

We know that Christ rose again after his conquering the curse of sin and Satan upon the cross. He rose again, victoriously. What does that mean for us? That means that this life is not all that there is. That means that our lives are a part of a kingdom that is greater than anything we can imagine. The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that evil and suffering have ultimately been defeated, and while there is still pain, the sting of death has been defeated and that what is coming for the believer is infinite joy in the presence of Christ.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 ESV)

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)

This 1 Thessalonians passage is extremely helpful in regards to death and resurrection. It tells us that Christians who die have hope because of Christ’s Resurrection(14). The Christian takes comfort in death as sleep because Christ died so that death would not be the end for us. As Christ died and lived again, so we all die to live again. We often think wrongly about death. We think that our loved ones go from the land of the living to the land of the dying, when, for the Christian, they go from the land of the dying to the land of the living. The Christian also has hope because of Christ’s return. One day Christ will return and those who have fallen asleep will have their bodies reunited with their souls and they will reign with Christ for eternity. 

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51-57 ESV)

This passage also teaches us that Christians who live have hope (15-17a). Why? Why should we who live and see these awful tragedies hope in God? Because we are in Christ. Being in Christ is what it means to have hope in you. Are you in Christ? What does that mean? It means to understand the biblical truth that God is holy and great and that we, by nature have fallen short of his greatness and glory because of our sin. It means that we understand the wages of that sin is death, or eternal separation from God. But the good news is that Jesus came for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. He died the death that we deserved so that our death would be just sleep. Do you know Christ? Do you have this hope? Put your faith in Jesus today, rely upon Jesus today. Turn from your sin and turn to the one who died to save you from sin and death.

While You Wait…

One thing this passage tells us that God wants us to do:  Encourage one another with these words (18). Tragedies are interesting times because we all want to say something. We want to come to grips with a difficult thing in a way that’s not too difficult. God has equipped us to encourage one another and help each other in our grief and doubt. Look to the pages of Scripture and find Jesus, the man of sorrows acquainted with grief. He who bore our grief and carried our sorrow. He who rose from the grave and has prepared a place for us that our hearts would not be troubled. Those are the words to say.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6 ESV)

 

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